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Zubbles, the Colorful Bubbles
June 26, 2009 4:44 AM   Subscribe

Finally, finally - Zubbles are available for pre-order! Inventor Tim Kehoe has been searching for the elusive colored bubble for a long time. Through his experimentation he's stained his eyes a deep blue, along with his car, his kitchen, and his bathtub (he's also permanently stained the family dog). But in 2005, after 11 years and over $500,000 in funding, Kehoe successfully created a colored bubble that wouldn't stain. His invention, Zubbles, was given the "Best of What's New, Grand Award" from Popular Science.

Yesterday, after an additional four years of refining the production process (and meeting with all manner of attorneys, scientists, and Fortune 100 companies)... Zubbles officially became available for pre-order. Popular Science posted a follow-up article, which includes some video. News of its availability is undoubtedly making many kids happy, and making many adults... as happy as kids. [previously]
posted by avoision (71 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bubbles Blue (and other colors)?
posted by snofoam at 4:50 AM on June 26, 2009


Proof that bubbles are still just as exciting for adults as they are for kids.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:54 AM on June 26, 2009


It took this guy eleven years to combine bubbles and disappearing ink?
posted by orme at 4:56 AM on June 26, 2009


I do think they look awesome, though.
posted by orme at 4:56 AM on June 26, 2009


It took this guy eleven years to combine bubbles and disappearing ink?

Yeah, what a retard! To me, it would be simple.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 5:06 AM on June 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


I read about this guy years ago. Years ago - man, good on him for sticking with it. I'm sure there are some of these in my future and I welcome them, my new, colored-bubble overlords, with open arms.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:11 AM on June 26, 2009


Hundreds of generations of children from time immemorial have tried to do this with food coloring but finally one kid stuck with it and tried other things. Good job! Assuming it doesn't cause cancer!
posted by DU at 5:13 AM on June 26, 2009


The formula (at least for the blue and pink ones)
posted by DU at 5:18 AM on June 26, 2009


Good job! Assuming it doesn't cause cancer!

And just imagine hospitals if these cured cancer...
posted by eriko at 5:25 AM on June 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Yeah, but can he do plaid?
posted by Drasher at 5:36 AM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, no flying cars, no jet packs, no hangover-cure pills, let alone cures for [fill in disease of choice here].

I hate to be that guy, but I must declare that although magnificent obsessions can move the species as a whole forward it is true, in this particular, I am not much impressed.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:36 AM on June 26, 2009


He stained his eyes deep blue? The secret ingredient one of the early bubble formulas: Melange, the geriatric spice.

The bubbles must flow! He who controls the bubbles controls the universe!
posted by adipocere at 5:43 AM on June 26, 2009 [33 favorites]


Oooh, thanks for this. I first heard about it on MeFi in November 2005, when it sounded as though Zubbles were going to hit the shops very soon. Time went by -- no Zubbles -- and I wondered if he'd hit a snag. But now it sounds as though it really is going to happen.
posted by verstegan at 5:46 AM on June 26, 2009


I think the whole concept of disappearing color is really cool.
posted by disclaimer at 5:52 AM on June 26, 2009


Well a lot of green seems to be disappearing rather mysteriously lately.
posted by spicynuts at 5:57 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


It took this guy eleven years to combine bubbles and disappearing ink?

That is a long time. But it's less time than it took all of the rest of us to have this idea and build a business around it, so I think he still wins and all we have left is snark.

(Still looking for a picture of these blue-stained eyes.)
posted by rokusan at 6:23 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am not much impressed

Eh, at least he's being inventive; perhaps his creation will turn out to be spectacularly useful in some unforeseen context. Hell, even if it just improves dye technology. Better this than, say, an exhaustive study of some pointless cartoon, or a life spent in advertising.

Good for him.
posted by aramaic at 6:25 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am not much impressed

Selective quoter quotes selectively.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:29 AM on June 26, 2009


Yawn. Really?

Right then, here you go:

Meanwhile, no flying cars, no jet packs, no hangover-cure pills, let alone cures for [fill in disease of choice here].

I hate to be that guy, but I must declare that although magnificent obsessions can move the species as a whole forward it is true, in this particular, I am not much impressed.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:36 AM on June 26 [+] [!]


Happy?

Oh, wait, I forgot one:

I am not much impressed

Selective quoter quotes selectively.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:29 AM on June 26 [+] [!]


There, we good?
posted by aramaic at 6:37 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hate to be that guy

You mean the one with a soul made of pure glacier ice? Him? That guy?

:-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:41 AM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Man, they are pretty awesome. But I can't help but think he really should have just tried to raise enough money to hire a dye chemist in the first place.

It's pretty difficult to be a home inventor these days, now that it takes so many years of study to even get to level pegging with the current state of knowledge in your chosen science.
posted by lucidium at 6:41 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


much impressed.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:36 AM on June 26

posted by Flashman at 6:42 AM on June 26, 2009


There, we good?

Hey, hoopla! Lack of a sense of humour is no longer a requirement for participation at Metafilter, my friend! The world has moved on, and sadly, it's true, relic is a beachcomber. These days, it's all about playing to the crowd so you can get a slice of those favorites that all the kids are so excited about. I'm a little vague on what it's all about myself, and I play along. Do not panic, though. All will be well. The Resurrected Old-Schooler Memo is winging its way towards you as we speak!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:59 AM on June 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


Also, fuck bubbles. HAH!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:00 AM on June 26, 2009


I've always had a special place in my heart for bubbles, and this is just....oh! It just makes me so happy! *squee!*

If you haven't watched the video in PopSci's follow-up article, DO IT! It will bring you immense amounts of joy.

I am so tempted to pre-order these. Damn you, failing economy!
posted by chara at 7:00 AM on June 26, 2009


This makes me very happy. And it will make my daughter even happier.
posted by gaspode at 7:10 AM on June 26, 2009


Also, fuck bubbles.

I suddenly see a whole new marketing angle for this stuff.
posted by ook at 7:13 AM on June 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


I'm more impressed with how he arrived at his current formulation. There was very little, if any, top down knowledge involved. In the end it was through constant experimentation and not some sort of methodology.
posted by geoff. at 7:29 AM on June 26, 2009


I am looking forward to when they bring more colours out. I can just see these being a standard feature at festivals and parties now.
posted by lucidium at 7:33 AM on June 26, 2009


Lund ran his shop like a factory. A bell told inventors when to be at their desks and when to take breaks. New ideas were expected every Monday morning and were expected to be good.

This is not inventing.

Color remained elusive, but his try-anything approach kept plenty of other strange bubbles floating across his kitchen. One exploded with a loud bang. Another gave him chemical burns when it popped. The best one bounced, just like a Super Ball. He thought he could have sold that one, but he couldn't re-create it.

Now this, THIS is inventing. And a great visual too.

Mr. Kehoe sounds like a real awesome guy. One of those idea people who just never stop thinking. Now only if he hadn't some mistakes along the way like not writing down the details of each attempt...
posted by Spatch at 7:43 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


only pink & blue? i would totally get some if they had the orange & green ones ready for sale.
posted by msconduct at 7:58 AM on June 26, 2009


and it doesn't exactly say when they'd ship, either ....
posted by msconduct at 8:01 AM on June 26, 2009


Oh, these are SO FUCKING COOL!

Years ago, at a Rainbow Gathering, a friend and I invented the new belief system of Bubbleism. This radical new spiritual discipline combined the conscious breathing techniques of meditative practice with glycerine and soap to create an outward manifestation of one's inner self. Through careful perseverance, adherents to Bubbleism can achieve peace and harmony, as the frustrations and prayers contained within each breath take corporeal form and fly away from oneself into the cosmos. As each trouble or concern or thought of thanksgiving is unleashed into the air, it rises and falls according to its own purpose and ultimately abruptly disappears, becoming one with the All. You can literally feel your stress float away, and discover new joy as the swirling little orbs reflect the blessing of the Universe into your life.

We took this newfound revelation of Truth and spent about 90 minutes "smudging" the Main Circle on the peak day of the gathering, and not only created new converts, but discovered that extended public practice of Bubbleism creates a sense of peace and joy not only within practitioners, but also amongst casual observers. It is truly a spiritual expression I can get behind fully, and encourage any and all to seek their own true path to bubble enlightenment.

Now, I can only hope that these new "Zubbles" are going to increase the insight and understanding of Bubbleism. My fear is that they will become the Missouri Synod of Bubbleism, forever fracturing what until now has been a small, yet united group of believers into warring factions. Please, let these new colors not introduce apostasy. Let them, instead, allow yet more to see the Truth that is Bubbleism!

*note: this may read like one of It's Raining Florence Henderson's joke stories, but it isn't. Bubbleism is Real! It is True!
posted by hippybear at 8:10 AM on June 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


I've always had a special place in my heart for bubbles, and this is just....oh! It just makes me so happy! *squee!*

This also makes me happy, but if any of you mofos “squee!” again, I will hunt down your bubbles and pop every goddamn one.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:16 AM on June 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


This also makes me happy, but if any of you mofos “squee!” again, I will hunt down your bubbles and pop every goddamn one.

Sir, you sound upset. Can you spare a few minutes while I share with you my belief system?
posted by hippybear at 8:21 AM on June 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


Color remained elusive, but his try-anything approach kept plenty of other strange bubbles floating across his kitchen. One exploded with a loud bang. Another gave him chemical burns when it popped. The best one bounced, just like a Super Ball. He thought he could have sold that one, but he couldn't re-create it.

Sound's like a passage from a Harry Potter book!
posted by bitteroldman at 8:23 AM on June 26, 2009


"squee!"

*ducks*
posted by JeffK at 8:29 AM on June 26, 2009


I want bouncy bubbles. Colors are cool and all, but... bouncy bubbles? Those would rock.

Someone find an obsessed thin-film surface tension specialist, stat.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:32 AM on June 26, 2009


More for me!!




squee!
posted by Space Kitty at 9:03 AM on June 26, 2009


Back off, y'all. Squee!ing is a perfectly natural bodily function. Nothing to be ashamed of.
posted by chara at 9:23 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, fuck bubbles.

Tasteless Michael Jackson jokes go in the other thread, guys.
posted by tizzie at 9:27 AM on June 26, 2009 [15 favorites]


DU, I don't think that formula is what he used. From the link: Sodium hydroxide is a strong base. Avoid direct contact with this ingredient. If you do get some on your hands, rinse them immediately with water.

From the Pop Sci article: If you add, say, food coloring to the bubble solution, the heavy dye molecules float freely in the water, bonding to neither the water nor the surfactants, and cascade almost immediately down the sides. You'll have a clear bubble with a dot of color at the bottom.
...
Once he tried nitric acid, a toxic chemical that gives off red fumes at room temperature. "I got it making a really cool bubble, but it could've killed somebody," he recalls. "It ate through clothes."


Wimp.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:40 AM on June 26, 2009


Tim has other projects that don't involve disappearing dyes, including 2 iPhone apps and a kids book. With all the hype around the various other disappearing inks from over 4 years ago, I'm surprised he doesn't have more hints (or products) to show.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:52 AM on June 26, 2009


As a proud member of the endangered raver species, I really really wish you could order these and be reasonable sure they wouldn't take another 11 years to show up. I have little tiny party favor bottles of bubbles I throw into my purse for every concert and party. I need to be able to coordinate the bubbles to my outfit.

I'm kind of worried I'd get my face punched in my some kid on PCP, though. NO, I SWEAR, THAT HUGE STAIN WILL DISAPPEAR!
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:27 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait, what? Kids are doing PCP at raves now? Jeez. Times have changed.
posted by hippybear at 10:55 AM on June 26, 2009


This is awesome, and an awesome story (although, wouldn't you have just gone looking for a dye chemist earlier?)
posted by NikitaNikita at 10:57 AM on June 26, 2009


I'm always glad to see when someone follows their dreams and makes it big, but this story left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
[...] Just when he thought he'd succeeded, he'd failed again. Washable wasn't good enough. He needed color that disappeared on its own, that would never stain any surface it touched. But in the history of organic chemistry, no one had ever created a water-soluble dye that disappeared on its own. And Kehoe, despite his years of tinkering, was no chemist.
[Insert Guy Who Knows What He's Doing Here]
Ram Sabnis is a leader among a very small group of people who can point to a dye-chemistry Ph.D. on their wall. Only a handful of universities in the world offer one, and none are in the U.S. (Sabnis got his in Bombay). He holds dozens of patents from his work in semiconductors (dying silicon) and biotechnology (dying nucleic acids).
[...]
"This is the most difficult project I have ever worked on," Sabnis says now. "You think it's easy. Why could someone not make it? But when you actually do it, it's just impossible." For months, he ran 60 to 100 experiments a week, filling notebooks with sketches of molecules, spending weekends in the library studying surfactant chemistry, trying one class of dyes after another.
So, basically, this guy did the exact same thing as Kehoe, except... you know... with real science. And solves the problem. Yet the story is supposed to be all about Kehoe's years of Edisonian toil and frustration.

So Sabnis gets a check for services rendered, and Kehoe walks away with the patents, the money, and the credit. Bleh.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:05 AM on June 26, 2009


"Once he tried nitric acid, a toxic chemical that gives off red fumes at room temperature. 'I got it making a really cool bubble, but it could've killed somebody,' he recalls. 'It ate through clothes.'"

A bubble machine with a solution of Nitric acid would probably make a great terror weapon for places with very light breezes. Or subway stations.

Boy I can't wait to actually be able to buy coloured bubbles. Even funner is the problem with knock off coloured bubbles that don't actually disappear coming soon to a Wal-Mart/Dollar store near you.
posted by Mitheral at 11:34 AM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


.


ohh wait wrong type of thread for that?
posted by Gravitus at 11:40 AM on June 26, 2009


I've always been a bubbletard. I start by blowing gently--with no yield--and end up blowing too hard, resulting in a pitiable raspberry-type sound coming from my lips as sudsy beads of nothing-worth-looking-at goes spritzing off the edge of the wand.

Jack and Jill can go fuck themselves.
posted by jeremy b at 11:52 AM on June 26, 2009


DU's link about making non-staining colored bubbles at home by using acid-base indicators is pretty brilliant. I really want to try that.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:00 PM on June 26, 2009


Love the bubbles, but what I really want to know is how to dye the whites of my eyes blue. because that would be awesome. (then they'd match my hair)
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:08 PM on June 26, 2009


Can you mix the pink and blue for purple bubbles? I want purple bubbles! By sundown.
posted by Cranberry at 12:15 PM on June 26, 2009


Do they have ones which are ribbed for her pleasure?
posted by digsrus at 12:49 PM on June 26, 2009


Great, more random shit I have to worry about possibly being allergic to that most people will think is harmless. Bad enough I'm allergic to most of those normal bubble solutions, and break out like I've got the plague from randomly walking through malls / my yard (damned kids) / other public places if someone has a bubble machine or kids blowing bubbles.

/grouch
posted by strixus at 12:52 PM on June 26, 2009


Among the ideas Kehoe has already mocked up are a finger paint that fades from every surface except a special paper, a hair dye that vanishes in a few hours, and disappearing-graffiti spray paint. There's a toothpaste that would turn kids' mouths a bright color until they had brushed for the requisite 30 seconds, and a soap that would do the same for hand washing.

Guys! Look at this awesome, brand new, never before invented chemical compound! Man, what a marvel of modern chemistry.

Now quick, let's rub it all over our skin, our hair, and especially in our kid's mouths. What could possibly go wrong?
posted by ScotchRox at 1:12 PM on June 26, 2009


I heard about these last month, when I was going through the new book order catalogs and came across The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow. I try to check out who the author was, and wound up on the zubble site. And let me tell you, my coworkers and I were very excited about the colored bubbles.
posted by redsparkler at 1:59 PM on June 26, 2009


If you have a four year-old in the house, this is the coolest thing ever, even if by proxy.
posted by PuppyCat at 2:04 PM on June 26, 2009


Ordinary bubbles contain all the colours there are. Zubbles are a neat invention, but I feel like it would be a step down to have bubbles of just one colour.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:52 PM on June 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had some fake colored bubbles. It was some sort of thin glue or something you could dip a straw in and blow and make these plastic bubbles. I mean, theyd idn't float or anything, but man, if those could be that much fun, I can't wait.
posted by rubah at 3:37 PM on June 26, 2009


"I had some fake colored bubbles."

Crap, i remember that stuff... my guess is that it caused brain damage!
does anyone remember the name?
posted by HuronBob at 4:10 PM on June 26, 2009


"Guys! Look at this awesome, brand new, never before invented chemical compound! Man, what a marvel of modern chemistry.

"Now quick, let's rub it all over our skin, our hair, and especially in our kid's mouths. What could possibly go wrong?"


They already have plaque marker dyes for tooth brushing so I'm guessing not much at the moment.

The local noon news (Global Vancouver) had a kids segment today where they featured firm bubbles. I missed the actual segment but the studio was covered in these waxy bubbles.
posted by Mitheral at 4:56 PM on June 26, 2009


Once he tried nitric acid, a toxic chemical that gives off red fumes at room temperature. "I got it making a really cool bubble, but it could've killed somebody," he recalls. "It ate through clothes."

This sounds like an awesome weapon for a video game... Like something out of TF2.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:15 PM on June 26, 2009


Phase II: Invisible Bubbles.
Phase III: Four dimensional bubbles.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:20 PM on June 26, 2009


I wonder if this is the same Tim Kehoe that I had a HUGE crush on during summer camp at Albion Summer Adventure?
posted by Stewriffic at 6:41 PM on June 26, 2009


Do you mean Super Elastic Bubble Plastic?
posted by hippybear at 7:48 PM on June 26, 2009


I don't think so hippybear, the bubbles looked exactly the same as regular bubbles and when they popped they left just a smidge of material behind, kind of like a wadded up spider web.
posted by Mitheral at 11:10 PM on June 26, 2009


Nothing spells "kid's toy" like acetone-based goop and drinking straws.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:15 AM on June 27, 2009


five fresh fish: to this day, I am not sure whether Super Elastic Bubble Plastic was actually fun to play with, or simply got me so high I would have thought dust bunnies were toys.
posted by hippybear at 10:21 AM on June 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


If my son is any indication, dust bunnies are awesome toys. And delicious.
posted by ook at 1:38 PM on June 27, 2009


I remember reading this story in 05 and think about Zubbles whenever I'm in a toy store. Such a cool idea.

This makes me very happy
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 6:41 AM on June 29, 2009


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